VL Myrsky (Storm) Fighter / Fighter-Bomber / Reconnaissance
The indigenous Finnish VL Myrsky fighter series led a relatively short operational life and saw limited production numbers.
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Prior to its war with the Soviets, Finnish authorities were contemplating an indigenous fighter design to stock its fledgling air force. By the middle of 1939, the program had gained some traction but no products were ready by November when the Soviet Union invaded Finland to spark the "Winter War". The conflict resulted in an "interim peace" in March of 1940 though the war no doubt put Finnish authorities on alert, giving further traction to the indigenous fighter design initiative known as the VL Myrsky ("Storm"). The Myrsky was produced through the state-owned Valtion Lentokonetehdas concern (hence the "VL" in the designation) with design work beginning in 1941 under the leadership of Edward Wageluis.
The Myrsky was of conventional design arrangement as piston-powered aircraft of the time go. The type was characterized by its low-monoplane wing assemblies (fitting ahead of center) and its forward-mounted radial piston engine powering a three-bladed propeller. The cockpit was set along the center of the design with good views to either side and rather limiting views forward overlooking the long nose. The empennage was traditional in its arrangement with a short, rounded vertical tailfin and applicable rounded horizontal tailplanes. The undercarriage was retractable and made up two single-wheeled main landing gear legs and a tail wheel. The Myrsky was managed by a single pilot. Wingspan measured 11 meters with a fuselage length of 8.35 meters. Construction was of wood and metal.
The Myrsky was completed with an SFA-Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-SC3-G series 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine of 1,650 horsepower output and fitted to a compartment ahead of the cockpit. This supplied the mount with a top speed of 328 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 29,500 feet and operational range of 580 miles. The engine was originally an American product produced under license in Sweden before making its way into the Finnish product.
Armament was a keen consideration for any fighter and the Myrsky was given 4 x 12.7mm LKK/42 heavy machine guns, all fitted to the forward fuselage and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades. Provision was made for the carrying of 2 x 100 kilogram conventional drop bombs for strike sorties.
First flight of a prototype was recorded on December 23rd, 1941 and the aircraft was assigned the designation of "Myrsky I" . Three pre-production aircraft were then constructed for trials and testing quickly revealed several notable design flaws, particularly with the wings which were prone to break from the fuselage under certain stresses. The landing gear legs also proved weak and new processes were introduced to both areas for added strength. As a result of such dangerous issues, not one of the four completed airframes would survive their trials - all being lost to accident and two test pilots being killed in the process.
In 1943, production was underway for the revised "Myrsky II" of which 47 aircraft were ultimately completed. The aircraft was then placed into operational service with awaiting Finnish reconnaissance and fighter groups in August of 1944 and saw service in the "Continuation War" (June 1941-September 1944) against the Soviet Union. Myrskys were used in both fighter and fighter-bomber roles which complemented the arrival of very capable Messerschmitt BF 109G fighters being delivered from Germany. By all accounts, the Finnish design was adequate in the roles presented though it is said that her pilots never held a true appreciation for the type mostly due to less than stellar performance. The continuation war ended with a Soviet victory solidified through the Moscow Armistice. Finland then turned on the Germans in the "Lapland War" which spanned October 1944 to the end of World War 2 in April of 1945, officially ending German influence in the country.
The Myrsky II managed an existence that outlasted the war for she was still being actively flown well into 1947 and ultimately retired from Finnish Air Force service in 1948. An improved variant, the "Myrsky III", entered construction but none were completed and thusly never saw operational service. In all, 51 Myrsky I and Myrsky II aircraft were produced and all served with Finland.